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February 2002

Lesleylinda Lannan - Chief
Operating Officer and Not Just by Chance

by Joseph RADDER

You don’t even need all the fingers of one hand to count the women who are chief operating officers of major Western New York employers. Lesleylinda Lannan was recently welcomed into this elite group. She’s the new executive vice president and chief operating officer of Univera Healthcare.

It’s clear she’s not in this position of tremendous responsibility just by chance. Lesley Lannan has built her career on a people-oriented philosophy and a foundation of service to others. “We’re on this earth to serve one another,” she said. “People count more than anything else and there’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.”

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Lesley - 2 years old.


And so today, Lesley Lannan leads the Western New York operations of Univera Healthcare, a not-for-profit HMO with more than 200,000 members, 3000 affiliated physicians, 1400 area employees and $510 million in annual operating revenue. Univera Healthcare is among the area’s largest firms, so to be named its chief operating officer is a great accomplishment for a woman not yet age 50.

When asked if such a challenge frightens her she was quick to say, “No. I think about it occasionally but most of my energy is focused on where we are as an organization and where we need to go to better serve our members.”

This past October, Univera Healthcare completed its merger with Excellus, Inc., a Rochester-based company that operates not-for-profit health plans in Rochester, Syracuse and the Utica-Watertown areas. The merged organization is now the second largest health insurer in New York State.

Is there an advantage to being a woman in such a big job? Ms. Lannan thinks so. “I believe it’s important to learn how to recognize and implement new and innovative ideas, and then be able to develop that same skill in your managers. I think women are more inclined to do that, while men tend to be more traditional in their approach to building a business.”

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Lesley at 11 months old with Grampa Dinty.


Those who work for her helped us get past her quiet modesty. Here are a few of the things they said about their boss:

“Lesley’s strength is recognizing your strength and then tapping into it.”

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Lesley’s 1974 graduation from SUNY Cortland (left to right) sister Laurie, mom, dad, Lesley and sister Lynn.


“She makes the tools available to develop those areas where you need a higher skill-set to advance yourself and the mission of the company.”

“She’s the kind of boss you want to work for, learn from and count on as a friend. Even better, she wants to work with you and learn from you as well.”

“Many of us have advanced to positions in management because of her...the way she delegates, rewards and coaches.”

“Lesley truly provides equal opportunities for growth among her staff, regardless of race or gender.”

Formerly Univera Healthcare’s Senior Vice President for Marketing, Lesleylinda Lannan specialized in market research and product development. Back in 1994 when Univera was still known as HealthCarePlan, she was a driving force behind the creation of ChoiceCare, a new HMO program that virtually doubled the organization’s membership overnight.

Under her leadership, Univera’s SeniorChoice program also experienced explosive growth, increasing its membership from 7,000 in 1995, to more than 35,000 members today. SeniorChoice is an HMO program for people who are eligible for Medicare benefits. It’s the largest program of its kind in Western New York.

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Lesley with her sisters Lynn and Laurie, 1990.


Lesley Lannan joined Univera (then HealthCarePlan) in 1988 just after her second child was born. “I saw an ad for a health care planning analyst and I applied,” she said. “I worked two years part time and then came on board full time.”

She was ideally suited for the job in health care, having worked for the United Cerebral Palsy Association, the Lutheran Service Society, the Erie County Association for Retarded Children, the J.N. Adam Developmental Center in Perrysburg, the Center for Human Policy at Syracuse University, the West Seneca Developmental Center and the Niagara County Association for Retarded Children.

“My mother and father raised my sisters and me to believe we could do anything we wanted to and I also had great mentors who pushed me hard to be an achiever.” They included John Campagna at the West Seneca Developmental Center, executive coach Hedria Lunken and Arthur Goshin, M.D., President and CEO of Univera.

She adds, “It was also an enormous advantage to have the full backing and support of my former husband, who encouraged me to get my graduate degree and then pursue subsequent professional opportunities.”

Lesley was educated at SUNY Cortland where she received her BS in Education and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University where she earned a Masters degree in Public Administration.

Lannan and her former husband, Doug Fabian, have two children, Ben, age 15 and Emma, 13. Her mother, Marilyn Lannan, lives in Lockport. Her dad passed away two years ago. Lannan has two sisters, Laurie Vorp of Ashville, NY and Lynn Chambers of Brewster, MA.

Among her favorite family stories are legends about her grandfather, “Dinty” Moore, who was a Canadian amateur hockey star who was the winner of an Olympic silver medal in 1936. Happy memories include trips with grandfather “Dinty” on the ships that passed through the Welland Canal at Port Colborne.

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Lesley’s son Benjamin, daughter Emma, Lesley and Doug, 1991.

Lesley, Doug, Ben and Emma in Cape Cod, 1995.


In addition to her responsibilities as Univera Healthcare’s chief operating officer, Lesley Lannan’s goal for 2002 is to become more involved in the community—to be of service to others.

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.

 

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